Summer reading that’s not

It’s that time of year when we’re bombarded with recommendations of what to read while on the beach or in the garden or, if your British and it’s raining, in the camper or beach hut. The New Yorker’s recommendations start with ‘For your summer reading, it might be nice to go with something relatively light.’ As I’ve been reading these listacles and adding a couple of titles to my Amazon Wishlist (though eventually I’ll get some from the library), I’ve noticed what’s missing – the books I’ve been reading so far this summer. Explainer: with an apartment in Nice and no school calendar to follow, my summer began in mid-May. I’m not complaining.

The three fiction books I’ve read for my first half of summer, and summer does seem to be more about fiction, are all authored by Ukrainian writers. While a couple have had favourable reviews in the popular press, with one on the New York Times best-seller list, none of them appear to be worthy of ‘summer reads.’ Is summer reading all about light subject matters for our holiday-mode brains? Or is there an unwritten rule among media outlets that summer reading should be detached from the harsh realities of current events?

Ignoring the summer hit list, my reading choices came from my friends and book reviews from earlier in the year.

Late May was consumed by Sweet Darusya: A Tale of Two Villages by Maria Matios. A deceptively simple read with a hint of magical realism, it could have been on any summer list. Perhaps it didn’t make the cut because it deals with some of the cruelty of life in Ukraine. Not the Ukraine that has been in our news since late February. This novel is set in a rural Carpathian village from the 1940s to the 60s, telling the story in three parts in reverse chronological order. The dysfunctional and often brutal lives of the two families at the centre of these interlocked tales have their moments of dry humour and weirdness. Ultimately it takes the reader back to the Second World War when the village was seized by the Romanians, followed by the Soviets, the Germans and back to the Soviets again. Though not a story about war, the fighting holds a shadowy presence. ‘Life and war continued simultaneously, at the same time dependent on and independent from one another.’

A few weeks in June went to Grey Bees by Andrey Kurkov. Set soon after the Russian annexation of Crimea when Russian-backed separatists were fighting Ukrainians in Donetsk and Luhansk, this story is all about war but from the view of civilians caught up in it. During this conflict, Donbas became a grey zone, which included a village where only a beekeeper and a ‘sort of friend’- that is, a friend of convenience – remain with limited resources. More of a page turner than Sweet Darusya, Grey Bees has characters I cared about and could chuckle with. The novel is sprinkled with light touches of humour and socio-political satire, and yet at the same time manages to convey the gravity of the circumstances for these lost souls.

I’ve ended this Ukrainian trio last week with a collection of stories by Oksana Zabuzhko called Your Ad Could Go Here. Indeed, the stories are as diverse as advertisements, a potpourri of subjects, written with the sophistication and bizarre juxtaposition of Zabuzhko’s celebrated poetry. I’ll let her prose speak for itself in this passage of a woman trying to go about her routine the morning after a casual sex encounter:

“Later she takes a long, thorough bath, and brushes her teeth three times because the odour seems permanent, and when she steps out of the bath, it’s starting to turn grey outside. Vovka Lasota lies in her bed with his head wrapped in the sheets like a Bedouin corpse ready for burial, and just like the dead Bedouin, he has nowhere to go (sure, divorce isn’t easy on anyone, especially on men, who soon seem like abandoned dogs who’ll lick anyone, seeking a master).”

I’m glad I didn’t let the heat wave (39C in Ely last week) stop me from taking in these books that might not be beach reading but seem as important as they were enjoyable. Forget the summer reading listacles, I’m keeping some of my thoughts with people trapped in this ruthless war.

Oksana Zabuzhko

Dalloway Day

For the past five years the Royal Society of Literature has celebrated the writings of Virginia Woolf on a Wednesday in June. Today is that Wednesday. Interesting that this society has chosen the short novel Mrs Dalloway for the festival name. As much as I appreciate Mrs Dalloway, and have read it twice, of Woolf’s oeuvre, To the Lighthouse is a richer story, one that had me up until 3 am to finish it, and it remains at the top of my list.

I appreciate that Mrs Dalloway is more accessible than some of Woolf’s other books. It has also benefitted from an excellent film adaption (1997), with Vanessa Redgrave in the lead role. Written in a third-person omniscient narration as if in the mind of Clarissa Dalloway, the story takes place in London over a 24-hour period soon after the end of the First World war, moving continuously between the past and the present as remembered and interpreted by Clarissa. The intensity of the drama unfolds in otherwise mundane circumstances as Clarissa prepares for a party at her home, which she shares with her husband, a wealthy politician. Depicting an era full of hope and a renewed sense of freedom mixed with the unhealed wounds in the aftermath of war, one of key subplots involves a veteran suffering from what was then called shell shock (PTSD).

Stylistically, Mrs Dalloway is well worth reading. The dreamy stream-of-conscientiousness style with calculated repetitions weaves together emotions, actions and dialogues. While the book has many quotable lines, I’ll just give you this to savour:

‘She belonged to a different age, but being so entire, so complete, would always stand up on the horizon, stone-white, eminent, like a lighthouse marking some past stage on this adventurous, long, long voyage, this interminable—this interminable life.’

But is this enough to justify a day to celebrate the writings of Virginia Woolf? I think so for the simple reason that in modern parlance, she is an influencer. Her book-length essay A Room of One’s Own is an often-quoted title, edging on the verge of cliché. Mrs Dalloway served as the premise to the point of modern-day-rewrite for Michael Cunningham’s brilliant The Hours. Taking a somewhat cynical look at Woolf worship combined with social satire on reality television, I flagrantly purloined from the author’s life and works in my stage play Virginia Woolf Get a Makeover. This list of borrowings probably has no end.

Dare I say that people who have never read Woolf’s work know of her, and I’d like to think that this virtual holiday encourages more people to read one of the English language’s greatest writers.

Dark Tourism

Disasters fascinate. The Titanic still garners interest after 100-plus years. Though I suspect some of that has to do with the lost ship and its treasures. The other side of Titanic fetish comes from the high number of casualties, that mass grave in the North Atlantic, arguably an example of what’s been called ‘dark tourism.’

My disaster fascination is with Pompeii, where some 2,000 people died when Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD. I first caught Pompeii fever as a child when an exhibit about Pompeii toured America and came to the Art Institute of Chicago. I was mesmerized by the plaster casts made from the ashen moulds of bodies frozen in time at the moment of horrific death. My recollection of this includes seeing people screaming. But that’s an unfaithful childhood memory. The reality wasn’t so detailed or morbidly vivid. Most of the figures are covering their heads, crouched or lying down. My adult self looks at these casts and imagines people being in a state of meditative acceptance of their mortality I visited the remains of Pompeii on two occasions, once in the 80s and sometime around 2005-06. The disaster is still fascinating, but more so for what it has left behind – the artifacts and structures that reveal how the inhabitants of the ancient town lived.

More recently, I had the pleasure of hearing the historian and classicist Mary Beard talk about her book and television series on Pompeii. Beard has changed my way of thinking about these people, for instance, pointing out that it would be wrong to call them Romans. The graffiti and inscribed objects indicate a diverse population, with speakers of Latin, Oscan, Greek and Hebrew.

Mary Beard among the human remains of Pompeii

This point is also picked up in Robert Harris’s brilliant novel Pompeii, a true page-turner set in the days before and during the eruption, with well-drawn characters and an attention to detail praised by historians. Harris digs into the minds of the people of that time who regarded such disasters as vengeance from the gods and the warnings that they had that went unceded. His protagonist, the region’s aquarius responsible for the aqueducts feeding into the towns, makes this observation: ‘Perhaps Mother Nature is punishing us, he thought, for our greed and selfishness. We torture her at all hours by iron and wood, fire and stone. We dig her up and dump her in the sea. We sink mineshafts into her and drag out her entrails – and all for a jewel to wear on a pretty finger. Who can blame her if she occasionally quivers with anger?’ This underlying environmental message also makes this worth a read.

There’s another type of dark tourism that I’ve been thinking about lately. The phrase is also used for visiting places like the concentration camp at Auschwitz, the Rwandan genocide towns (Kigali, Nyamata and Ntarma) and the Atomic Bomb Dome in Hiroshima, where apparently the rubble and twisted metal from the immediate aftermath of the bomb remain in situ. I’d argue that these sites, though they might hold a morbid fascination for some, are more about education, pointing the finger at human destruction and the mistakes of those who turned a blind eye. Watching, reading and hearing the news day in and day out, I wonder if Bucha and Mariupol will become sites for dark tourism.

Ai Qing’s Wetnurse

I’ve been listening to Ai Wie Wie’s memoir 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, where he writes eloquently about his father’s life that in so many ways mirrored his own. Both father and son had been persecuted by the state. Although I’ve been following Ai Weiwei’s life and works for years, his father was always in the background until now. That is, a good book is one that leads me to another.

Ai’s father, Ai Qing was a well-known poet. Pablo Neruda, a contemporary and friend, referred to Ai Qing as the ‘Prince of Poets.’ Of the many fascinating episodes in his father’s life that Ai Weiwei recounts, there’s one that I can’t get out of my head. Ai Qing’s family belonged to the gentry in China in the early 1900s and as was the custom, babies were fed and mostly cared for by their wetnurses. In Ai Qing’s case, his wetnurse Dayanhe had several children of her own. For Dayanhe to secure employment as a wetnurse, she had her last child – a girl – killed. As Ai Weiwei explains it (forgive the paraphrase, but I’m working from an Audible book), so was the need for income from being a wetnurse and the prestige of working for Ai Qing’s family, the sacrifice was understood and not uncommon. Ai Weiwei adds that even today it is not unheard of in poor rural areas of China.

This is one of those examples of the lives of women and girls being expendable, disposable, and defined by their willingness to forgo something precious for themselves and others to survive.

AI Qing’s’ his first collection of verse (1936) was titled after a poem about his wetnurse that bore her name Dayanhe. Trying to find a copy of this book in English, I’ve stumbled across summaries of the poem which euphemistically call her a ‘foster nurse,’ a ‘childhood nurse’ or ‘the woman who reared him.’ There appears to be something about wetnurses that requires censoring.

In ‘Dayanhe’ Qing praises his nurse’s character as steadfast and kind-hearted, describing her life of poverty. Without a specific mention of the infanticide that she and her family committed, he writes of her ‘lifetime of humiliation at the hands of the world’ and suggests her fate was shared by all oppressed women in China. The poem ends with a dedication to these Chinese women: ‘Dedicated to all of them on earth, the wet-nurses like my Dayanhe, and all their sons.’

Women who wander

For International Women’s Day, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the flâneuse. She’s a woman who wanders city streets dawdling, observing and thinking. Not a streetwalker in the sex-worker sense. The term comes from the French male equivalent flâneur, once used to describe famous writers and painters who strolled the streets of Paris. I recently read Lauren Elkin’s highly engaging Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice and London. Straightaway, Elkin points out that a flâneuse is not merely a female flâneur, ‘but a figure to be reckoned with, and inspired by, all on her own. She voyages out, and goes where she’s not supposed to.’

I’ve long been a flâneuse myself, walking alone the streets of towns and cities I’ve lived in and visited. Part of this is for the love of walking, but also out of curiosity and for the stimulation of city life – the architecture, the buses and trains, the workers, shoppers, runners and tourists, the aromas from cafes and restaurants and those cherished green spaces of public parks and squares. I was reminded of my walking excursions in old European cities with this passage, where Elkin describes her flânerie in Paris:

‘I am always looking for ghosts on the boulevards. So many people have passed through Paris; did they leave any residue? Some parts of town seem still to be inhabited by older souls who won’t leave – up towards the Portes Saint-Denis and Saint-Martin I think I can feel them, crowds of people in bowler hats and long skirts, I can sense them pressing past me along with the people I recognise from my own time, bare-headed and in short skirts.’

As you can see, some of this book is memoir and travelogue about her own experiences, but equally interesting, it’s also biography and literary criticism. Elkin delves into the lives and writings of famous flâneuses, including Jean Rhys, Virginia Woolf, Martha Gellhorn and George Sand (who dressed as a man to freely walk the streets). One of the flâneuses not mentioned that I would have included is Phyllis Pearsall (1906-1996), who created the A-to-Z maps of London. In producing the first edition of the detailed maps, she walked for 18 hours each day traversing over 23,000 roads covering more than 3,000 miles.

As I reflect on these courageous and somewhat quirky women, I’m aware that they have had the fortune of being for the most part middle class and living in the West, with some freedoms not afforded to poorer women or to women even today, rich or poor, living in some other parts of the world. I am also aware in our present day that these women, these lucky flâneuses, were wandering through cities not under siege – another stark reminder of what people lose at times of war.

Novelist Jean Rhys

Blue and Yellow

There’s an awful lot of blue and yellow out there these days. According to a few online ‘-edias’ and ‘-ictionaries’, the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag represent the sky and fields of wheat. This combination of colours comes from the flag of the Kingdom of Galicia–Volhynia, used in the 12th century for the lands that include modern-day Ukraine.

Even the Covid-19 pandemic has failed to unite people the way Putin’s attack on Ukraine has. The pandemic was beleaguered from the start with different theories on how it spreads and what strategies governments should take to protect people. And let’s not forget the covid-deniers and anti-vaxers. The war in Ukraine is more straightforward. Though the solutions and ways of taming Putin are complex, we have all witnessed this unprovoked attack on a liberal democracy and recognise propaganda when we hear it.

I suspect that we’re sporting the blue and yellow, not only because we’re humanitarians, but because we feel vulnerable. I sure do. The possibility of another world war, one that would be, unlike its predecessors, fuelled in part by cyber-attacks and nuclear arsenals leaves me edging towards panic, that sensation of falling from high without a net.

Everyone has their own means of dealing with this feeling of vulnerability. I find myself meditating longer and more often, trying to live in the moment as vulnerability entails some projection into the future. I’ve also tried to do something for the people of Ukraine in a couple of small ways – a donation to the Red Cross and participating in a march through the streets of Cambridge, UK. (I’m aware that by mentioning this I risk being accused of virtue signalling.)

March in Cambridge, 5 March 2022

Above all else, I’ve sought solace in the Ukrainian writings and artistic works that have been surfacing en masse in mainstream and social media. Before this war, I was only familiar with a handful of Ukrainian writers, including Natalka Bilotserkivets. I found one of her poems again and reread it, forced by the present to interpret it differently:

ROSE

It’s time to pack your bag and go.
You don’t know what to take – something easy
to carry; everything you’d possibly need,
instantly found.

Two or three brushes, soap and a towel.
Clean underwear, just in case your lover
meets you – or God. Either way,
you should have clean underwear.

In a secluded place, among weeds
of a dense, heavenly forest, I’ll meet a rose.
Like Blake’s symbol of delicate mysticism –
the rose who loves the worm.

Having allowed him into her alluring womb,
she trembles, hidden, to avoid me,
and all poetry – a shame, a bore,
oh, poor flower, lovely, dear . . .

© Translation: 2002, Dzvinia Orlowsky
First published on Poetry International, 2006

Now I imagine a yellow rose against a blue sky and people packing hurriedly as if leaving their lovers, but with the hope of meeting them again.

‘Support’ by Olga Shtonda

Everyone’s Talking Ulysses

As this month marks the 100-year anniversary of the publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses, it’s impossible to avoid.

My confession: I’ve read it one and two thirds’ times. That is, I first tackled this 700+page tome as an undergraduate in Chicago and failed to finish it – this is what happens when you work fulltime and take on a full schedule of classes. Self-pity aside, I managed two thirds of the book and with fastidious notes from the prof’s lectures, I partly bluffed my way through an essay exam, emerging with a B+. Fast forward to some 25 years later, I was in my forties and decided it was time to read the book cover-to-cover, including the 200+ pages of annotations at the back.

Such a reading exercise is hard work, simply because so much is involved in following the wandering thoughts and observations of Leopold Bloom and in understanding the political and social references of the time (those annotations come in handy). Ezra Pound described Ulysses as an ‘encyclopedia in the form of farce,’ and it is encyclopedic in that it covers a mass of subjects and ideas. But I don’t think ‘farce’ does it justice – the humour in Ulysses is at times situational, but is more often subtle and satirical.

Even though getting through Ulysses is an undertaking, it is worth it, especially in middle age. My undergraduate self couldn’t have possibly appreciated the nuance of emotions and the reflections on life:

‘Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.’

The 25-year gap between my first and second readings was filled with, among other things, living in the UK and reading other modernist writers, such as Woolf and D.H. Lawrence. While I recall my younger self appreciating the turns of phrase and the love of language that trickles throughout the novel, I value it more from the vantage point of being a literary stylistician, noticing the occasional wink to the reader.

Would I read it again? People certainly do. I remember the poet Anthony Thwaite telling me that he read it about once every decade. For the true Ulysses aficionados, there’s the Twitter account UlyssesReader, which tweets out quotes from the book every ten minutes – it’s a corpus-fed bot. Serious fans make the pilgrimage to Dublin for the Bloomsday celebrations every 16th of June, the day the story takes place. It all sounds like good fun, but when it comes to rereading, I’d rather reread Joyce’s short story collection, The Dubliners, with one of my favourite stories, ‘Eveline.’ Or better still, read something for the first time. There’s Finnegan’s Wake, a Joyce book I found unreadable when I tried it some 30 years ago – it makes Ulysses read like a child’s nursey rhyme – and there it sits in my Kindle, waiting for me.

Problems and Praises for The Trauma Plot

In a recent New Yorker article, Parul Sehgal makes the case that the trauma plot can leave us with characters who are ‘flattened into a set of symptoms.’ The first example that came to my mind, and not included by Sehgal, was The Hurt Locker, the Oscar-winning film directed by Kathryn Bigelow. The main character without his combat encounters of deactivating bombs wasn’t much of a character. Yet, it is nevertheless a great film because for the most part it’s plot-driven, but in a good way, with precision editing giving the audience an intense visual experience.

Sehgal offers examples from television (including Clare Underwood and Ted Lasso) and modern fiction (Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close) that have been reliant on the trauma narrative creating a character’s past and personality. For me, the most salient point comes from counter examples:

‘Trauma has become synonymous with backstory, but the tyranny of backstory is itself a relatively recent phenomenon—one that, like any successful convention, has a way of skirting our notice. Personality was not always rendered as the pencil-rubbing of personal history. Jane Austen’s characters are not pierced by sudden memories; they do not work to fill in the gaps of partial, haunting recollections.’

Sehgal is not a total polemicist, pointing out times when the traumatic backstory is only partly revealed and how it has contributed to some of our best works of fiction – Morrison’s Sula, Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom and Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brody.

I can think of several novels that use the trauma plot to great effect without diminishing their characters. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog (originally in French) have female protagonists whose traumatic pasts help to explain the defensive sharp wit and quirkiness of these rounded characters. Kazuo Ishiguro effectively deals with trauma in a few of his novels, and in An Artist of the Floating World, the denial of one character’s traumatic memories is used to symbolise the collective amnesia of post-war Japan.

Sehgal’s piece is also worth a read for what she has to say about the ubiquity of trauma in our present-day cultural scripts, offering studies and views counter to popular thought. Like Sehgal, I find it intriguing that our society seems to have a fascination with trauma. Is this part of a victim-centric wave of thought and policy (those much-debated ‘safe spaces’) or have we become more sympathetic and able to discuss traumatic experiences that our ancestors preferred to conceal?

Notes on Trauma

I keep on bumping into the topic of trauma. Our society, literature and art, at least in the West, are dealing with this topic more openly and more creatively than they did in the not too distant past. So far, I just have some disconnected notes.

  • In the novel American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, a woman and her eight-year-old child escape from the brutal massacre carried out by a Mexican cartel of sixteen members of her family– that’s the opening chapter, no spoilers here. As mother and son flee this tragedy, they carry their trauma with them. The narrator, at this point focalized on the mother notes: ‘Trauma waits for stillness. Lydia feels like a cracked egg, and she doesn’t know if she’s the shell or the yolk or the white. She is scrambled.’ 
  • A CfP (that’s ‘call for papers’ in academic speak) came up for an article collection on the theme of extremities, not to be confused with extremism, following on from the work of Catherine Malabou on neuro-literature and the recent wave of ‘extreme’ texts in literature. In brief neuro-literature is something of a template for literary and art criticism that is post-deconstructive (sorry Derrida) and post-sociocultural interpretations, drawing from the sciences, including neurobiology. ‘Extreme’ texts seem to have many definitions, but I divide them simply into structurally experimental and/or radical in theme. On the CfP’s list of potential topics within the idea of extremities is ‘post-trauma, witnessing, silencing and reorientation in literature.’ This makes me wonder if trauma reaches an extreme, an outer edge, of human experience.
  • Some excellent novels in recent years have dealt with the topic of rape, how it traumatises as it shames and alienates the victim and the victim’s family. A melange of emotions with an undercurrent of misogyny and patriarchy. I mentioned in a recent blog, Girl by Edna O’Brien, which is about the abducted girls in Burkina Faso. To this I add, We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates, which is set in the US and shows how the rape of one family member can over time change the lives of the entire family.
  • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk has been referred to as the ‘trauma bible.’ Van der Kolk, a trauma specialist, recounts his decades of work with trauma survivors, showing how this is not only a psychological condition and phenomenon, but also a physical one that can alter the body’s health. It was on the New York Times bestseller list. I think says something about the time we are living in.
  • A zoom talk by Women’s Human Rights Council featured Jeanne Sarson and Linda Macdonald, who were promoting their book Women Unsilenced. The book is about the male torture of women in domestic violence and in slave trafficking. The authors mentioned how they are not referring to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) in the usual way, for them it is PTSR. The R is for response – we respond, we naturally react to stress and trauma. To call it a ‘disorder’ further victimizes the victim. I agree with that.

It’s a humourless topic, which makes it hard to write about. It might take some journal entries and blogs to get to grips with this. But the topic is also ubiquitous, and writing about it is crucial.

Poetry Days

I don’t live with poetry the way some writers do. Poetry comes up on me in seasons, lasting a few months, and sometimes in comes along for a couple of weeks before fading away again.

I’m in one of those short spells of poetry, triggered by National Poetry Day producing a list of the nation’s top ten favourite poems as voted for by the British people. To no surprise, something by Shakespeare – the sonnet ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day’ – was in the number one spot. Of the remaining nine, only two were by women – Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Maya Angelou. That shouldn’t be a surprise either as the list reflected works typically found on the school curriculum, until recent years teaching the predominately white male canon. Other worn favourites included Kipling’s over-simplistic ‘If’ and Lewis Carroll’s children’s classic ‘Jabberwocky.’ This makes me wonder if childhood is so influential that it shapes our tastes for the rest of our lives. Taking a more cynical view, it could be that institutions of formal education are among the few places where we get exposed to poetry, thus making these works more memorable. Having said that, performance poetry, poetry slams and YouTube are doing their bit to take poetry outside of the classroom. I would like to think that future surveys of the nation’s favourite poems will include works to emerge from these newer formats.

Nearly all my favourite poems come from twentieth century writers – e.e. cummings (‘love is thicker than forget’), Stevie Smith (‘Not Waving but Drowning’) and Fleur Adcock (‘Against Coupling’) come to mind. Many of these poems can be found in university textbooks and papers in literary stylistics, leading me to think that the study of certain poems makes them our favourites.

This spell of poetry continued along last weekend with a memorial service for Anthony Thwaite, one of my favourite poets and a personal acquaintance. Anthony passed away earlier this year and was given quite a send off by the British press (The Guardian and Times among them). For the writers of these obits, Anthony was a ‘mover and shaker’ of post-war poetry, a literary editor and close friend and literary executor to Philip Larkin. I met Anthony some 15 years ago at his Norfolk home that he shared with his wife, Anne, and which hosted many East Anglia Writers’ summer parties over the years. The Anthony that I knew, while still funny and forthright as in his younger days, displayed an easy-going cleverness – the sagacity of a life well-lived.

Indulge me with closing this blog entry and this poetry mini season with a poem printed in the order of service and one that coincidently puts a twist on my thoughts about the nation’s favourite poems:

Simple Poem

I shall make it simple so that you understand.

Making it simple will make it clear for me.

When you have read it, take me by the hand

As children do, loving simplicity.

This is the simple poem that I have made.

Tell me you understand. But when you do

Don’t ask me in return if I have said

All that I meant, or whether it is true.

Anthony Thwaite